21 Aug 2021 9:30 AM GMT
The Madras High Court on Thursday held that the notification issued by the Teachers Recruitment Board mandating candidates to be enrolled as an advocate and to possess a master's degree in law (ML degree) in order to be qualified for appointment as Assistant Professors for pre-Law courses in Government law colleges is irrational and illegal. The Court was adjudicating upon a batch of...
The Madras High Court on Thursday held that the notification issued by the Teachers Recruitment Board mandating candidates to be enrolled as an advocate and to possess a master's degree in law (ML degree) in order to be qualified for appointment as Assistant Professors for pre-Law courses in Government law colleges is irrational and illegal.
The Court was adjudicating upon a batch of petitions wherein the petitioners contended that such 'non-essential qualifications' have absolutely no value addition to their appointments as they are to be recruited only for teaching pre-law courses in the subject concerned.
A Bench comprising Justices V Parthiban and N Kirubakaran observed that the disputed qualifications shall not add adjunct value to the teaching faculty solely employed for taking pre-law courses.
'With the additional qualifications, particularly regular ML degree and enrollment as advocate, unlike the core postgraduate degrees in the relevant subject, the focus of teaching is forced to gravitate towards law from the pre-law level, thus defeating the very concept of the integrated legal programme formulated by the academia", the Court opined.
The notification under challenge was issued by the Teachers Recruitment Board in 2018 for the recruitment of Assistant Professors (Pre Law) in Government Law Colleges in Tamil Nadu for the year 2017-18. The notification stipulated that candidates would be eligible for the post only if they had a Masters Degree in law with not less than 55% of marks and if they had enrolled as an advocate in the Bar Council. A similar notification was also issued back in 2014.
These qualifications had been prescribed in addition to the primary qualifications i.e. Post Graduation Degree in the concerned subject from the Universities in the State of Tamil Nadu with not less than 55% of marks and passing the National Eligibility Test (NET).
The Court emphasised that when candidates are appointed to teach pre-law courses, the focus should be on whether the teacher for the particular non-law subject is intellectually equipped to handle classes for the students in the subject of specialisation of the candidate concerned, in terms of his/her post graduate degree.
"Requiring more qualifications, not connected to to the main qualification in the finer discharge of duties, the teacher concerned would inevitably be a person of mediocre knowledge of not excelling in the relevant subject or in law, either", it was noted.
It also made a reference to the Legal Education Rules, 2019 which is yet to be notified and observed that the offer made to students to study various subjects such as Arts, Science, Commerce or Technology does not mean that the subjects are to be taught at 'a cursory or superficial level.'
'In a higher education programme, when any subject is prescribed as a specialization, the same cannot be treated as an auxillary and make the students learn the peripheries of the subject. Thus, the additional qualifications prescribed cannot said to be drawing definite support from such slippery assertion or contention', the Court observed.
The Court further opined that it was 'perplexed' and unable to decipher as to how the candidate's enrolment as an advocate would be of any use to the duties of an Assistant Professor.
"How far enrollment as advocate is going to be of any academic use in the discharge of duties by the Assistant Professor, is a conundrum, as no definite or plausible answers are to be found. In fact, from the entirety of arguments by the learned counsels, this aspect has not been addressed at all. Hence, the enrollment as advocate whether could bring any value addition to the pre-law teacher is a knotty question and till the conclusion of the argument, the question remained conspicuously unanswered," the Court said.
The Bench also pointed out that if candidates were made to enroll as advocates, the concerned candidate would be more inclined to join legal practice instead of focusing solely on teaching. Accordingly, the Court observed,
"The possession of law degree and enrollment at the Bar would invariably act as a catalyst and inducement for the teacher of pre-law to leave the job of teaching anytime, he/she chooses to leave as per his/her convenience. This contingency cannot be ruled out at all, in practical times of today's context. On the other hand, if a candidate with only post graduate qualification in the relevant subject, which means the same subject, both at the under graduate and post graduate levels, such candidate unalloyed focus could only be on the subject of his teaching. When a candidate tied to the teaching, he/she is bound to make a qualitative difference in the long run. The teachers with a specialized degree without the law degree, would be fully focused into teaching and probably, research too benefiting the students. If the standards of the legal education is to be protected or improved, the quality of the dedicated teachers is a sine qua non for its betterment."
Thus, the Court held that the impugned 2014 and 2018 notifications 'suffers from the vice of colourable legislation' and must be declared to be 'irrational, unreasonable and arbitrary'.
"The qualifications, viz., M.L., degree and enrolment as advocate, as prescribed in the impugned Notifications, in addition to the postgraduate degree in the relevant subject for appointment to the post of Assistant Professor for pre law course in the Government Law Colleges in the State of Tamil Nadu are declared as illegal, as the same suffer from patent irrationality, unreasonableness and arbitrariness", the Court opined.
Furthermore, the Court clarified that obtaining a Post Graduate degree through distance mode would not be sufficient to qualify for the post of Assistant Professor in terms of the notification.
"In fact, invariably such (distance) degrees are earned only for the purpose of furthering their job prospects in the employment market. Such degree holders, principally look upon the appointment as a job opportunity as they go about discharging their duties perfunctorily with little passion towards achieving academic excellence ... Thus the postgraduate degree obtained through distance education mode or through correspondence may not be valid enough for appointment as faculty in the pre law courses," the Court remarked.
The Court also highlighted that the concerned Post-Graduate degree has to be in the same subject pursued by the candidate at the Under-Graduate level thus invalidating the appointment of candidates having a 'cross degree'.
It was however clarified that any appointments already made pursuant to the 2014 and 2018 notifications would not be affected by the ruling.
"The State authorities are directed to conform to the minimum standards fixed by the BCI and expedite the process of recruitment, in order to avoid any academic dislocation," the Court concluded.
Case Title: V Lekha v. The Chairman, UGC
Click Here To Read/Download Order